CALGARY – When the buzzword “opportunity” is thrown around at an NHL training camp, it usually applies to rookies trying to crack the big team’s roster.
But for the Calgary Flames it also applies to a guy like six-year NHL veteran TJ Galiardi, who is looking to take his career to another level at a new position.
The Calgary native was converted from wing to centre just a week ago when camp opened, and he has settled into his new responsibilities quite nicely.
He had a goal and an assist and was the best player on the ice Tuesday as a Flames split squad scored four times in the second period on its way to a 5-3 victory over a New York Islanders split squad in NHL pre-season action.
“I played centre growing up, I played centre in college, in the WHL and in my first year in the NHL when (current flames assistant) Jacques Cloutier was my assistant coach,” said Galiardi, who centred Lee Stempniak and Curtis Glencross. “I think he was the one that suggested it to (Flames coach) Bob (Hartley) when they traded for me.”
Despite having played the wing the last four years, including the last year and a half spent with San Jose, Cloutier knew Galiardi could perform well as a centre.
“I felt he could help us in the middle and it’s the perfect time of the year to try him because you need repetition,” said Cloutier, who ran the bench with Hartley in Regina with the other half of the Flames split squad. “He needs to play down low and needs some forechecking and I think tonight was probably his best game. He was moving well and hopefully he can keep it up and we can keep him in the middle.”
Galiardi’s work included a strong play along the boards to help set up the first of two goals for Dennis Wideman, a couple other nifty set-ups including one to Tim Jackman and a nice toe drag move that he almost turned into a beautiful goal.
On his goal, which made it 4-1 late in the second, he patiently waited for Islanders goalie Anders Nilsson to commit then stepped around him and rifled a shot under the crossbar.
He hasn’t hit the 10-goal mark since scoring 15 in 2009-10. But it’s something he’s been working at as he knows he’s capable or producing more and the Flames, who are very thin at centre ice are going to need it.
“That’s something I wanted to work on for sure. The last couple years, I feel like I could have had 10 more goals each year if I just beared down a little,” said Galiardi, who was acquired from the Sharks for a fourth round draft pick. “There was even that chance early in the game that I probably should have scored. Those are things you learn from watching guys that are very consistent scorers.”
That’s players like Joe Thornton, who he ended up on a line with during last year’s playoffs.
“If you look at the way he finished last year and played in the playoffs on the big line with Thornton and (Brent) Burns, he played some pretty important minutes and I think that maybe helped him recapture a little bit of his confidence. Now he’s got a little bit of a different role. Especially playing in the middle. It’s a big difference,” Cloutier said.
So far, so good for the 25-year-old.
“I think that’s part of the reason why they brought me in here. They saw that I could step up offensively but you have to prove it, right, or else it’s not going to happen,” Galiardi said. “I’ve been getting a lot of great opportunities, the coaching staff has been great to me and I want to take advantage of it.”
Also scoring for Calgary was Lance Bouma and Glencross into an open net.
The Islanders got goals from Michael Grabner, Griffin Reinhart and Riley Wetmore.
“It was exciting. My Mom’s family grew up here, My Dad (Paul) played here, Max is with the Flames franchise now so it was a cool opportunity to get into my first game here,” said Reinhart, the Islanders fourth overall pick in 2012.
Notes: Galiardi went 11-11 in 22 faceoffs … Clutterbuck left the game early in the third period favouring his leg. He was shaken up after delivering a heavy hit on Paul Byron … Joey MacDonald went the distance in net for Calgary, finishing with 18 saves … Kevin Poulin finished with 14 saves on 16 shots while Anders Nilsson turned aside 11 of the 13 shots he faced.